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Thursday, March 7, 2013

Is CCS a "dead man walking"?

This must-read article succinctly voices the argument that carbon capture and storage technology, while viewed as urgently needed,  "looks like a dead man walking"  absent the imposition of an aggressive carbon tax.  

Author Chris Nelder cites four main reasons for his assessment:

  1. the cost - in dollars and energy - of the technology is so high - he provides a revealing table from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office - that only a carbon tax could level the playing field for CCS;
  2. the existence of cheaper alternatives - including a rapidly expanding solar market that finds more and more instances where solar is at or below grid parity without subsidies
  3. the need for massive government subsidies for the technology; and 
  4. the chronic inability of at-scale CCS demonstration projects to get off the ground. 
About the only thing that Nelder may have missed in making the cost argument is that energy efficiency alternatives, too, may compare very favorably with CCS investments at current costs.

All that said, conditions could change.  Capture technology is evolving - though not rapidly enough.  And the shale gas boom could, with CCS, morph from to a near zero carbon form of energy. Given what at this point is the need for an "all of the above" strategy to combat disastrous climate disruption, I think research and demonstrations of CCS should continue - with a vastly enhanced sense of urgency. At least, CCS could be viewed as another hedge that may be needed to soften the coming climate blows.

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